Veterans museum wraps up refurbishment efforts

PARKERSBURG – With a lot of help and with less than $30 spent, the Veterans Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley has a new look and more space to display artifacts.

Gary Farris, director of the museum, said the new layout will allow the museum at 1829 Seventh St. to display more than it has, although it will still be just a small portion of the collection.

“We’ve increased it quite a bit,” he said. “We could fill up three or four times the space.”

Farris said the museum interior has a fresh coat of paint and the carpets have been cleaned.

“That’s thanks to Home Depot,” he said. “They donated all the paint and they gave us a vacuum cleaner and a couple of carpet shampoo machines.”

Store employees came to help out with the painting and carpet cleaning. They also helped to paint the house of a local World War II veteran and they were fed by Domino’s Pizza.

The museum was the recipient of dividers that were used by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in its former location in the old Union Trust building.

“This entire thing cost us nothing,” Farris said. “We may have bought a few frames here and there, so if we spent anything we may have spent $20 to $30; we were careful on how we did everything to make sure we didn’t get in over our heads.”

Angela Shoemaker, project and events coordinator, said the project began the day after Veterans Day.

“We got everybody up here and closed down,” she said. “We had the official grand reopening two weeks ago.”

Farris said the museum has brought several items out of storage, like a Blue Angels jacket, added items to a Spanish-American War area and three uniforms to the women’s display.

“We have several pictures up here that have not been displayed before,” he said.

One display features uniforms from the Longaberger family. Gerald and Paul Longaberger served together in the Army and later in the Vietnam era Donnie Longaberger served in the U.S. Air Force.

“They (Gerald and Paul) joined the Army together and both were in the Philippines,” Farris said. “Gerald is the one who sold baskets prior to World War II.”

Farris said the display has their uniforms and items brought back from the Philippines.

There is a new display of artifacts from the opposing forces such as samples of Iraqi money, propaganda leaflets and a uniform, a Viet Cong regiment flag, Japanese and Nazi Germany flags along with Italian and German helmets and small weapons. There is a piece of the Berlin Wall in the display.

There is an expanded Vietnam era section.

“We’ve added one or two things,” Farris said. “It’s hard to find things from the Vietnam era,” he said. “Most of the guys didn’t save them and most of these items have sad stories about men who were killed.”

Farris pointed out the museum has items that were left when the Vietnam Memorial traveling wall was set up at City Park.

Officials hope to be able to update the museum’s library, but that is a project they will work on later, Farris said. He said books have been donated and only a few volumes have been cataloged.

Saturday the museum will be part of the fourth annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day at City Park. Farris said it will be a low-key event.

“Basically it’s just a get together, no speeches,” he said. “Nothing going on but a chance to visit with each other and have refreshments.”

After the Saturday event, they will begin work for the annual cookout at City Park. Farris said anyone who wants to donate items for the Memorial Day event can contact the museum at 304-420-0332 or 304-420-0337 during regular business hours.